IndyCar fans return to Pocono Raceway
A lot changes in 24 years, and that is certainly the case for Jim and Trudy Powell.
The last time the Delaware County couple was at Pocono Raceway for an IndyCar race, their children were young. Now their grandchildren are young.
Back then, race-car legend Mario Andretti was a star of the CART series. Now, Andretti's grandson, Marco, is one of the top drivers on the IZOD IndyCar Series circuit.
The Powells were in attendance for the last Indy race at Pocono in 1989. And they were back again on a hot, humid Sunday to watch Scott Dixon take the checkered flag in the return of open-wheel racing at the "Tricky Triangle."
An estimated crowd of 30,000 turned out (AR1.com thought it was closer to 40,000).
"We definitely couldn't wait to come back here," said Trudy Powell, while taking in the pre-race sights along with her husband, three daughters and two grandchildren.
"We've always preferred Indy racing. But this is our first race since we went to [the now-defunct] Nazareth Speedway in 1992."
Jim and Trudy Powell said their family loves all types of racing and the excitement that race-day generates. They were here four weeks ago for NASCAR's Pocono 400.
But, this event was a special one.
"Our daughters couldn't wait for today," Jim Powell said. "They have such great memories and they couldn't wait to bring their own kids. It's been a long time."
"I was 4 the last time we were here [for IndyCar racing]," said Whitney Powell, now 28. "I remember I was in a car seat but I can't recall too much else."
Two hours before the race's 12:17 p.m. start, the scene was more calm than chaotic as sun-soaked fans approached the track's main entrance.
Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan zig-zagged through the crowd on a moped scooter with little fanfare.
People trickled in and out of IndyCar's "Fan Village," where they could watch and participate in an hour-long autograph session, a Q&A session with numerous drivers, and see several race-car simulators.
Some others searched for shade.
Rick and Jason Keenhold operate K&K Collectibles out of Wind Gap. The father and son have worked on the grounds at Pocono for 20 years, and Jason Keenhold said the crowd Sunday was significantly more subdued than the faithful NASCAR followers.
The Keenholds had their two tents set up near the entrance.
"We do a decent amount of sales for NASCAR, but we haven't done a lot today," said Jason Keenhold, an assistant football coach at Pen Argyl High. "It's two hours before the race and if it was a NASCAR race, you wouldn't be able to fit a golf cart through this spot."
Brett Wasilewski, who was at the IndyCar return along with his wife and two sons, agreed the atmosphere was quite different than the typical NASCAR race at Pocono.
Wasilewski and his family attend two NASCAR races a year — one at Pocono and one at Dover.
"It's definitely not as busy," said Wasilewski, who lives in Pennsburg. "The guys have their shirts on, no one's screaming 'Go Junior!' [in support of NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr.] and there's a lot less partying and tailgating. It's just a different crowd.
"This is something different for us," he said. "We're trying it."
IndyCar racing is nothing new for Brian and Sherry Parry, though.
The couple lives about five miles from Marco Andretti in Bushkill Township, and said they have known the 26-year-old Nazareth native since he was a youngster. Brian Parry, who was wearing a blue Marco Andretti T-shirt, said they attend several IndyCar races a year.
"We're strictly Marco fans," he said, "but we were race fans before he was born. We followed Michael and I remember watching Mario when I was a little kid.
"When we heard that Indy was coming back to Pocono, this was perfect for us." Mcall.com